Today, we are happy to host Ava March for an interview and review her latest historical M/M romance novel as part of the All In with the Duke Blog Tour! You can find the other stops on the tour listed here!
All In with the Duke (Gambling on Love #1)
by Ava MarchGoodreads:
Release Date: November 11, 2013
Publisher: Carina Press
Max Arrington, the Duke of Pelham, vows to never again let a handsome face blind him to a man's true intentions. But ten months of celibacy and lonely nights drive him to a decadent brothel, where a beautiful young man arouses his illicit passions as never before.
Tristan Walsh has grown tired of being used for men's pleasure. But his latest client is different: commanding yet generous, Max makes him feel cared for as well as wanted. Yet Tristan knows he'll never have the choice to leave the brothel and submit only to Max.
So when Max invites him to be his guest at his country estate, Tristan eagerly agrees to his terms—days to do as he pleases while Max tends to the dukedom, and nights spent together in wicked play. But when the "business arrangement" begins to deepen into something more, Tristan must face the fact that he has no true place in Max's life—or in Max's guarded heart…
Tristan pulled his gaze from Max, to the shelves upon shelves lining the walls. “You certainly have a lot of books. Have you read many of them?”
With a light clink of crystal against silver, the maid set a tray with the brandy on the side table. A short curtsy, and she left the room.
“Yes, years ago. My tutor used the library as a source for teaching materials.” He used to dread when the man would walk into the schoolroom, arms full of new finds from this room’s shelves. Max reached for the decanter, poured two glasses of brandy.
Tristan took the proffered glass with a murmured, “Thanks.” The candlelight picked up the pale blond strands in his ginger hair. Max flexed his free hand, the memory of those silken strands still fresh on his skin.
“But not recently?” Tristan asked.
“Too busy in your study?”
Max tipped his head and took a long swallow of brandy.
“Do you spend every day behind your desk?”
“With the exception of this afternoon, yes. Unless I’m in London to attend Parliament or to deal with business matters there.”
“Don’t you enjoy hunting or shooting or some other pastime? You have a stable full of prime horseflesh. Do you ever take one out just to go for a ride, enjoy a sunny summer’s day?”
“A dukedom does not manage itself,” Max said, repeating the phrase he’d heard too many times to count.
What would his father think if he knew Max had turned his back on the dukedom in favor of an early afternoon orgasm?
His choice of a bed partner would most assuredly raise an eyebrow. Though his father wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest to learn Max had neglected his responsibilities. Was continuing to neglect them at that very moment.
Yet tonight… Tonight he wasn’t of a mind to dwell on it or let guilt weigh him down. The way Tristan had dropped so eagerly to his knees in that narrow, dark corridor had turned his attention to the locked trunk beside his writing desk. The one he had yet to open since arriving at Arrington Park.
He took another long swallow of brandy. “Shortly before we left London, and after I’d played footman for you, I stopped at a shop off Bond Street.”
“What sort of shop?”
“One for discriminating gentlemen.”
Tristan’s brow furrowed. He wasn’t familiar with that particular shop, hadn’t a clue as to the variety of merchandise sold there. Yet the way Tristan held his gaze indicated he suspected there was a meaning to Max’s words that he didn’t quite catch.
He’d become familiar with a few of the shop’s goods soon enough.
Max set his glass on the side table and stood. “I believe I shall retire a bit early tonight.”
Excerpt from ALL IN WITH THE DUKE ©2013 by Ava March. All rights reserved.
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I want to start by thanking Emily and Jenn for having me today. It’s great to be at Book Jems.
- What drew you to write M/M fiction?
I’ve always preferred reading and writing from the hero’s point of view, and in a M/M romance, there are two heroes. Plus, in a Regency M/M romance, I have more freedom, in a way. I don’t have to worry about the social constraints placed on females. I can have my heroes go wherever they want, hang out together, spend the night at each other’s houses, travel together, etc. As long as they appear as friends to Society, all is well. And that’s the big constraint I place myself under with a M/M Regency—such relationships were illegal. But if a relationship could thrive in the Regency, then it was a love meant to last. And that really appeals to my romantic heart.
- What is your favorite part of writing?
My favorite part of writing is the initial idea stage. When the story is shiny-new and I’m figuring out for the first time how the characters will go about getting to their happily-ever-after. I love mulling over ideas, trying out plot points, and fitting all the puzzle pieces together.
- What do you want readers to be left feeling after they finish one of your novels?
My goal is for readers to be left happy and satisfied and secure in the couple’s future, and if I can wring a *happy sigh* out of them when they reach the end, then that’s the ultimate.
- Where do you find your inspiration?
I find my inspiration everywhere. I love exploring the dynamics of relationships and what it takes to get a couple to their happily-ever-after. Sometimes it’s a song or a movie scene that gets the muse spinning on a new character. Sometimes inspiration seems to come from nowhere—the start of the story will just pop into my head.
- What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on Sharp Love, the second book in the Gambling on Love series. It features Jack Morgan (Max, from All In with the Duke’s ever-useful carriage driver) and his old childhood friend, William Drake, who happens to be a card sharp. Jack is principled kind of guy who takes his job very seriously, and Will…let’s just say he’s not so principled. Their book has been quite fun to write.
So this was my first M/M read and I feel like it was a good one to start off with. Not to mention very steamy. All In with the Duke is the story of Max Arrington, the Duke of Pellham, who, having been burned in the past by someone he loved, believes that love isn’t for him. On top of this, his preference in sexual partners is something that he needs to hide considering his Dukedom.
Lonely and wanting some comfort, Max takes the advice of a friend and finds himself in a brothel of sorts while visiting London. It is here Max meets Tristan, an employee of the brothel. And there’s just something about him that brings Max back the next day.
I was a little nervous going into this, not going to lie. But March created such vivid characters that I my nerves were instantly forgotten and instead I was instantly submerged into their lives. Max is so broken, with his hurtful past and his public face, you want to help him pull through and see that it’s okay to open up again. But he’s so goddamn stubborn that any reasoning with him is immediately shut down. Then there’s Tristan, who despite his young age, is very wise and an old soul. He’s innocent but not naïve and wears his heart on his sleeve – even if Max is too blind to see it. I like that Tristan wanted to be his own man – not just a kept man. His struggle to find where he fits in and where he excels was a nice balance to Max’s plight.
Set against historical London (my favorite place in the world), I literally felt like I was walking the streets or strolling through the gardens with these characters. Add the background in with the steamy love scenes and this book works its magic. And when I say steamy, I mean hot. London, sexy guys in waistcoats, and strong backstories – I will definitely be keeping my eye on this series.
Unlike my dear friend, Jenn, who states in her review of All In with the Duke that she had never read M/M romance before, I am an avid fan. During the last couple years, I have become surprisingly attached to the genre, and have found several authors who I know write great, believable romances. Ava March is one of them. Since I read her Brook Street series last year, I have put my faith (and money) in her storytelling ability. Not once have I been dissatisfied by March's work.
All In with the Duke is the story of Max and Tristan. Two men from very different backgrounds, living in nineteenth century England, who fall in love despite their circumstances. Max is the great Duke of Pelham, who runs himself ragged with the duties of his Dukedom and does not trust anyone since he was spurned by a past lover. Tristan works at a brothel, giving himself for the pleasure of men to cover a debt. What stems from a passionate night together leads them to a love that neither saw coming.
This story is not extremely long, and it reads very quickly, which I appreciated. It doesn't add unnecessary complexities to overtake the book. This is simply the story of two men who find love with one another and have to work to keep their relationship afloat. It's a sweet (albeit sometimes frustrating), very sexy read that really entertained me and left me with a smile on my face.
These characters are wonderful. Yes, both annoyed me at one point or another, but I think that's realistic. No person is perfect, and not everyone will agree with the decisions of others. Max and Tristan didn't go out of their way to be obnoxious, but their insecurities caused complications that made me want to shake them and tell them what the other was actually thinking so they could finally be happy. These two were a good fit for each other, and I'm very satisfied with the direction that March took with the story. It was nice to see two self-relent characters, who were able to find not only happiness with each other, but happiness with themselves.
I am so excited for the next book in this series as Jack Morgan's character is so very intriguing. Though he didn't have the largest role in this story, what we did see of him truly piqued my curiosity. March is sure to provide her readers with another fantastic tale, much like she did here with All In with the Duke.
Here's my warning to you: Don't read this in public unless you have the best poker face in the world. I tried reading some of this while waiting for a book signing, and barely made it in before blushing, stuttering and quickly hiding my kindle from the public eye. Needless to say, the sex scenes are quite steamy and the book progresses quickly, and I'm awkward enough in person as it is.
We received e-copies of this novel from the publisher for our honest opinions and reviews via Netgalley.
Thank you to Ava for joining us today, and to Kati for asking us to participate in the tour!